Dyrness, William A. 1943–

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Dyrness, William A. 1943–

(William Arthur Dyrness)


Surname is pronounced "Der-ness"; born January 23, 1943, in Geneva, IL; son of Enock Christen (a college administrator) and Grace E. Dyrness; married Grace Strachan Roberts, March 16, 1968; children: Michelle Lynn, Andrea Elizabeth, Jonathan. Education: Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, B.A., 1965; graduate study at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1965-66; Fuller Theological Seminary, B.D., 1968; University of Strasbourg, D.Theol., 1970; Free University, Amsterdam, Doctorandus, 1976.


Office—School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Box B, Pasadena, CA 91182.


Hinson Memorial Baptist Church, Portland, OR, minister to students, 1971-73; Asian Theological Seminary, Manila, Philippines, associate professor of theology, 1974-82; New College Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, professor of theology, 1982-90, president, 1982-86; Fuller Theological Seminary, dean of School of Theology, 1990—. Visiting professor, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, 1972-82; visiting instructor in theology, Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, 1988-89.


American Academy of Religion.


Rouault: A Vision of Suffering and Salvation, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1971.

Christian Art in Asia, Humanities, 1978.

Themes in Old Testament Theology, Inter-Varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1978.

Christian Apologetics in a World Community, Inter-Varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1983.

Let the Earth Rejoice: A Biblical Theology of Holistic Mission, Crossway Books (Wheaton, IL), 1984.

How Does America Hear the Gospel?, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.

Learning about Theology from the Third World, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1990.

Invitation to Cross-Cultural Theology: Case Studies in Vernacular Theologies, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1992.

(Editor) Emerging Voices in Global Christian Theology, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1994.

The Earth Is God's: A Theology of American Culture, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1997.

(Coauthor) Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong?, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 2000.

Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.

Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: The Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004.


William A. Dyrness once told CA: "I would like to help the Church discover the dimension of art as an expression of faith. For us time is not the moving image of eternity as it was in the Middle Ages, but it has been invaded by God himself at the incarnation as well as marked by his creative hand. Objects of the world can become sacraments; ritual moves toward incarnation. I am especially concerned that Protestants so propositionally oriented develop these other dimensions of their faith."

Dyrness develops this argument in Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. The book examines the history of Christian art, explores the context in which Protestantism turned away from visual imagery, and proposes that there are sound theological reasons for contemporary Christians to reengage with the arts. Deborah Sokolove, writing in Cross Currents, was frustrated by Dyrness's "slippery" definition of "art," which he sometimes uses to mean painting and sculpture but at other times broadens to include performing arts such as drama, dance, music, and film. "I wish," the critic added, "that Dyrness had spent some of his theological discussion on the broader issues of God's blessing on all our senses, and art's power to help us regain the ability to use them." Still, Sokolove appreciated Dyrness's enthusiasm for both art and the church, and concluded that his book is "a valuable contribution to the two-thousand-year-old conversation about the relationship between Christianity and the arts." Christian Century contributor Doug Adams observed that Dyrness makes perceptive comments about contemporary artists' interest in engaging with spirituality, but "does not convey to readers how extensively artists already have achieved that reengagement or how enthusiastically the public is responding." A writer for First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life expressed less qualified praise, welcoming Visual Faith as a "refreshing" call to Christians to reconsider the importance of maintaining a relationship to the arts.



Christian Century, September 25, 2002, Doug Adams, review of Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue, p. 41.

Commonweal, June 1, 2002, Lawrence S. Cunningham, review of Visual Faith, p. 26.

Cross Currents, fall, 2002, Deborah Sokolove, "Artistic Vision."

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, May 1, 2002, review of Visual Faith, p. 58.

Interpretation, October 1, 2002, Ana Karim, review of Visual Faith, p. 450.